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Applications for US jobless aid dip to 3-month low

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 13, 2014 at 9:24 am •  Published: March 13, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 315,000, its lowest level in three months. It was the second straight decline, and it added to evidence that the job market is picking up after a winter slump.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile figure, fell 6,250 to 330,500, the lowest point since early December.

Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs. The declines indicate that most companies are confident enough about consumer demand to avoid layoffs.

Employers are also hiring more after harsh winter weather depressed job gains in January and December, the government said last week. The economy gained 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January and only 84,000 in December.

"We are encouraged by this report," Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note to clients, "because it supports the idea that the recent gyrations in monthly labor market indicators...have been driven by the weather."

About 3.45 million people received unemployment benefits as of Feb. 22, the latest period for which figures are available. That's 13,000 more than in the previous week.

In a separate report Thursday, the Commerce Department said sales at retail stores and restaurants rose 0.3 percent last month. The rebound shows that consumers are spending a bit more after sales fell a sharp 0.6 percent in January.

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